Friday Fun: Weird winds and literal cattle cars

Strong winds blew over a transport truck on the Skyway bridge in Hamilton, Ontario, leading police to close the bridge citing safety concerns. Photo by Kerry Schmidt.

By Jeff Sanford

Toronto, Ontario — March 9, 2017 — This week’s edition of Friday Fun looks into the vehicles damaged by the extremely strong winds that swept across Ontario earlier this week, a cautionary tale about not using passenger vehicles to transport cattle, how the “Bullitt” mustang was found rotting away at a scrapyard in Mexico, and much, much more!  

– Windsor fire crews were on the scene of an auto recycler in that city Thursday afternoon. According to The Windsor Star, fire crews responded to J&B Auto Parts and “A large column of black smoke is rising from the rear … and can be spotted from throughout the city.”

– Weirdly strong winds swept across large parts of Ontario and the northeastern US on Wednesday. Collision repair centres are going to have loads of dent work coming in. In Hamilton, Ontario the winds were up to 115 km/h. Winds were so strong they even caused a transport truck to flip onto its side on the Burlington Skyway, which was closed for much of the afternoon. The driver of the truck was quoted by the CBC as saying, “I had slowed down … and the traffic was going like maybe 50 km/h, and the next thing I knew, the back of the trailer starting rolling over, and I was trying to adjust for it, but it just kind of rolled over like a wave.”

This wasn’t just a Canadian phenomenon. General Motors sent employees home from their headquarters in the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Workers in Michigan’s tallest building reported elevator problems and were reportedly told to stay away from windows before GM leadership sent them home.” The Ohio Turnpike was closed to certain vehicles. In northern Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge Authority mandated a, “… wind escort for high profile vehicles …” In Racine, Wisconsin R&M Auto & Truck Repair suffered a collapsed roof that destroyed two vehicles. At least four semis were overturned in the area as well.

– The California Highway Patrol received an odd call this week. According to a report, “Someone reported seeing a cow trying to climb out of a small car parked alongside an interstate … Officers responding Saturday along a mountain pass in Southern California’s Riverside County discovered a calf trying to escape from a Honda Civic’s open trunk … Another calf was crammed into the floor of the backseat. Both calves’ hooves were tied … Investigators say the driver was nowhere to be found. The car is registered to an address in Tulare County, more than 250 miles away … Authorities said Monday that the vehicle had not been reported stolen. It’s been impounded as evidence … The calves will be cared for at a ranch while officials try to determine who owns them.”

Passenger vehicles aren't suited to transporting cows. Even baby ones don't really fit very well.  
Passenger vehicles aren’t suited to transporting cows. Even baby ones don’t really fit.  


– You think you’ve got hassles waiting for parts? Try working with Tesla. An owner of a Tesla posted a lengthy story on The Motley Fool about the “disaster” he has experienced trying to get his car repaired. His car was rear-ended at low speed at a stop sign, but it has taken eight months to get it fixed, even as they were making payments on it.

The owner included a picture of the damage, describing the collision this way: “It looks worse than it was, in part because the Model S and Model X contain more aluminum than most vehicles. Aluminum crumples much easier than steel since it’s a softer metal. This is also an important safety feature since the crumple zones are both larger and able to absorb more impact, with the downside being that aluminum is more expensive. A consequence is that Tesla accidents look really bad because the vehicles get mangled, but the functional benefit is minimal intrusion into the passenger cabin.”

That said … eight months. Five of those months have been spent waiting for parts. According to the poster, “While Tesla performs most routine service itself, it outsources major body work to a network of third-party body shops that are certified by Tesla … Shortly after receiving my damaged car, the body shop started tearing down the vehicle to assess the damage, and ordering the parts that would be necessary for the repair … I had heard and read stories about Tesla parts taking longer to deliver relative to the rest of the industry, but that’s somewhat expected for a young car company with just one factory … After three months had passed and the body shop had still not received all the necessary parts, we began reaching out to Tesla directly through their customer service channels, which serves as a liaison to the internal parts department … Parts had started to trickle in, but there still weren’t enough to start the repair so our car continued to sit idly. Two of the more pertinent parts were a rear lift gate and rear quarter panel, which were still outstanding. During one of the escalations in November (four months after the accident), Tesla guaranteed us that all parts would arrive at the body shop no later than the last week of November. They didn’t.”

The shop finally received enough of the parts to start the repair in mid-December. Note that the shop still didn’t have all the parts at that point. The poster notes, “… in the final week of January, the shop confirmed that they had indeed received all remaining parts necessary to complete the repair. It looked like light at the end of the tunnel, six months in. At this point in the story, the car has spent more time in the shop than in our possession.”

The experience has rocked the client’s faith in the company. According to the owner, “To say that this whole experience has been traumatizing would be an understatement … [The experience] calls into question Tesla’s ability to support its existing customer base, which is of critical relevance to whether or not Tesla can support a massively larger customer base. The company is still targeting 500,000 units in 2018. As many analysts and pundits point out, the mainstream is far less forgiving for this sort of thing compared to enthusiastic early adopters.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is promising investors he’s going to start pumping more than one thousand vehicles a week soon. Whether the company can support that fleet is yet to be seen.

– A flurry of articles about provincial insurer ICBC appeared in the British Columbia press this past week:

1. The first story involved a press release the organization distributed noting that, “Despite tougher penalties and increased education, distracted driving still contributes to more than one quarter of all car crash fatalities in BC, with an average of 78 people killed every year … According to a recent Ipsos Reid survey conducted for ICBC, almost all drivers believe distracted driving has led to an increase in crashes; however, nearly 40 percent admit to still using their device at least some of the time while driving … In response, ICBC, police and volunteers have worked together to plan more enforcement deployments across the province, with more than 70 police enforcement events and over 50 Cell Watch deployments with volunteers roadside this month. Cell Watch is an educational initiative aimed at reducing distracted driving in communities throughout BC. The aim of these enforcement deployments is to give drivers the clear message that ‘if they drive while distracted, they’re even more likely to be caught.”

2. Another story noted that, “ICBC is updating basic insurance to increase the accountability of drivers who cause crashes by changing how much an at-fault crash affects their basic insurance rates.” That is, bad drivers will be paying more for insurance after their latest crash. “Going forward, drivers who cause multiple at-fault crashes will lose their safe driving discounts faster than they do today. ICBC is applying to the BC Utilities Commission to have these changes take effect May 6, 2018 … Right now, it’s possible for some drivers who have achieved the maximum discount to have caused two, or even three, crashes and have the same discount on basic insurance as a driver who has never caused a crash. Under the new system, long-term safe drivers will continue to have their discount protected if they’re at-fault for one crash but that won’t be the case if they have multiple at-fault crashes.”

3. The third story on ICBC is rather alarming. Apparently, rising insurance costs at ICBC are hurling the government towards a crisis. According to the story, “… ICBC was once again being used as a political football by the B.C. Liberal government and it now appears the air has been rapidly squeezed out of the ball … What was supposed to be a $95 million contribution from ICBC back to government this fiscal year has turned into a loss of almost $400 million. And what were supposed to be profits over the next few years are now expected to turn into major annual losses … Richard McCandless, a retired senior civil servant and an intervenor at B.C. Utilities Commission hearings, says the government has allowed an annual structural deficit of around $400 million to $500 million to become embedded in ICBC, one that cannot be sustained within the current funding model … McCandless says there are only two options here: either cut costs significantly, or increase revenues dramatically. Unless the government turns around and starts subsidizing ICBC with hundreds of millions of dollars, rate increases could total between 42 percent over the next four years.” The story goes on to note that, “… almost 500 layoffs of ICBC staff starting almost a decade ago. Many were experienced claims adjusters, and so the time required to settle claims took longer, thus adding to the costs …”  

– The number of car doors hit by cyclists in downtown Toronto has soared over the last two years. According to The Toronto Star, “The number of dooring collisions reported to the police increased year over year in both 2015 and 2016 and was up 58 percent in 2016 from the 2014 baseline.” The story goes on to note that, “Due to a change in the Motor Vehicle Accident Report (MVAR) instituted at the Provincial level, dooring collisions were removed in 2011. It was determined that a driver opening their car door into the path of a cyclist while parked did not constitute a vehicle in ‘motion’ as defined by the Ministry of Transportation. This has resulted in doorings not being a reportable collision and thus is not found in collision databases.”

– A report this week notes that, “Demand for paint and coatings in the US is projected to rise 2.3 percent per year to 1.4 billion gallons in 2020. Advances will decelerate modestly in both volume and value terms over the forecast period.”

– A pair of car restorers appear to have found the 1968 Mustang GT that Steve McQueen drove in the movie “Bullitt.” The two claim they located the car in a scrapyard in Mexico — and they’re bringing it back to life! Check out “‘Bullitt’ mustang found rotting in Mexican junkyard after nearly 50 years” on our sister site bodyworxmag.com for more on this.


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